Great Engineering: My Building's Elevators

About 6 months ago, I moved from one famously fratty skyscraper to a substantially less-fratty one. The move has been great all-around: lower rent, nicer views, fewer instances of vomit in the lobby, etc. The improvement that probably has the biggest impact on my life, though, is one that I did not see coming at all: the elevators in my new building are far-and-away more efficient than my old ones.

This doesn’t make any sense to me. The old building had 3 elevators with fancy destination dispatch interfaces. My new one has two old elevators. the new build holds, I would estimate, 2/3rds of the units of the old building. So the elevator:unit ratio is very close for both buildings, as are the number of floors (and since queue times don’t scale linearly, the old place should be better). But people complain endlessly about the elevators in the old building, and I’m with them: the elevators seem to always be broken, and even when they aren’t they don’t appear to be very fast.

My current building has a simple system I observed closely:

- In starting state (no one has pushed a button), elevators are a floors 1 and 11 (40% up)

- If someone on 1 requests a floor above 11, the higher elevator comes to 1 and they switch positions. If the request is below 11, the higher elevator stays

- If someone on a different floor requests an elevator, they are serviced by the higher elevator unless they are on 2-4 (I think).

- Importantly, the door closes very quickly.

While my old building has the more sophisticated system, the new one performs, in my experience, much better. It’s an important reminder to me that great engineering is often simple engineering. While I suspect otherwise, I hope that some people in the building appreciate the simplicity and the effectiveness of the system as much as I do.